MERCEDES — Former Mercedes Commissioner Jose Gomez is former no longer.
Originally part of a four-way race for Place 4 on the Mercedes City Commission during the May election, Gomez defeated incumbent Rubén “Chano” Guajardo in Saturday’s runoff.
“I’m feeling great, excited and ready to take action,” Gomez said shortly after the Hidalgo County elections department published early voting tallies, which showed him ahead of Guajardo by
150 votes — 607 to 457.
After Election Day ballots had been tallied, Gomez remained ahead — 808 votes (56.58%) to Guajardo’s 620 votes (43.42%). Results remain unofficial until canvassed by the city commission.
Both men and their supporters set up camp outside the Mercedes Civic Center Saturday, the lone polling place in town.
As the 7 p.m. voting deadline came and went, Gomez and his supporters ascended the steps to await the results, while Guajardo and his supporters milled beneath an oak tree as the heat of the day pressed down upon the civic center parking lot.
Cheers erupted from the Gomez crowd a few minutes later as word of the online results spread. In the shade, Guajardo’s camp began to pack up their things.
The incumbent, who has served almost two decades during various stints on the commission, conceded the race with equanimity.
“I congratulate my opponent and his supporters,” Guajardo said.
Guajardo reiterated a comment he had made during the campaign.
“The democratic process was going to unfold before our very eyes, and it did. And at the end of the day, the residents of Mercedes perhaps were misinformed, misled, and maybe that swayed their opinion and ability to continue to support me and my efforts to be reelected,” Guajardo said He thanked his supporters for the work during the campaign and said he will now take some time to focus on his family. “I’m saddened, but I am extremely happy with our team and our team efforts,” Guajardo said.
“And it just gives me a little opportunity to regroup and spend a little more quality time, you know, with my family, my mom, my wife, my daughter, my son and the rest of my family.”
Gomez, too, thanked his supporters.
“All these people that were with me, they believed in me. They’ve known me,” Gomez said.
“It is not me, it’s them. And we are working for the people, not for myself.”
Gomez also spoke of politqueros, saying his win served as proof that Rio Grande Valley elections can be won without “politiqueros with special interests.”
Gomez said his first order of business will be to schedule a meeting with City Manager Sergio Zavala and get back up to speed on all the city business he has missed since he last sat on the commission a year and a half ago.
After that, he hopes to focus on resolving a $6.5 million outstanding debt he says the city owes to the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets. “That’s a priority because that’s — according to the records that I requested — $6.5 million. That’s a huge amount of money.”
“For a small town like ours with a budget of $12 million, it’s a lot of money,” he said.
He hopes that, as well as a push to increase transparency between the commission and residents, will help attract more economic development to Mercedes.
“Because we need to build trust in order for investors to come into Mercedes and that’s one of my goal,” Gomez said.